21st October 2009
By Matthew Kalman
Tony Blair had to be rescued by bodyguards as he visited a West Bank mosque yesterday when a Palestinian man approached him shouting: 'You are a terrorist!'
The security breach occurred as the former prime minister was visiting an ancient mosque during an official trip to the city of Hebron.
The protester, a local man carrying a bag who was praying when Mr Blair and his entourage entered, was backed into a corner by guards who tried to shut him up.
Taking no chances: A bodyguard (left) scuffles with the Palestinian man after he shouts 'You are a terrorist' at Tony Blair
'He is not welcome in the land of Palestine,' the man shouted before he was dragged away by Palestinian security forces.
The man, a supporter of the Islamic Liberation Party Hizbut-Tahrir, was released after Blair left.
Mr Blair - the Special Representative in the Middle East for the 'Quartet' of the UN, EU, U.S. and Russia - gave a tight-lipped smile and tried to wave the incident off, but his Palestinian hosts were visibly upset by the lapse.
'You know, he made his protest and that's fair enough,' Mr Blair, 56, told reporters after the man was arrested.
'I think it's important for you guys as well to not always mistake the protest for the general view of the whole population.'
Verbal attack: The man, who is clutching a bag in his left hand, raises his right arm as he shouts towards Tony Blair in the Hebron mosque
Still shouting, the man raises his bag as he struggles with guards, who quickly surround him
The guards push the shouting man backwards before eventually pinning him up against the wall behind him
Mr Blair, right, continued the tour through the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron
Mr Blair (centre) is joined by Middle East dignitaries as he tours the mosque
The incident took place at the Ibrahimi Mosque, the sanctuary marking the location of the tombs of Muslim worshippers were gunned down by an Israeli extremist in the mid-1990s.
Mr Blair's spokesman Matthew Doyle said that at no time was the former prime minister in any danger, adding: 'He was on the opposite side of the mosque and he was just shouting. Mr Blair is used to being heckled.'
The fracas comes just days after Mr Blair was accused of being a war criminal by the father of a British soldier killed in Iraq, while attending a service at St Paul's Cathedral to remember the war dead.
'You've got blood on your hands': Peter Brierley, left, also verbally attacked Mr Blair over the death of his son Shaun, right, who was killed while fighting in Iraq
Security has been a constant concern-since Mr Blair's appointment two years ago.
The Daily Mail last Saturday
Last month, the head of a Palestinian group in Gaza that supports Al Qaeda revealed they had tried to assassinate 'the infidel' Mr Blair and former U.S. president Jimmy Carter but the plots were foiled by Gaza's ruling group Hamas.
Mr Blair is accompanied by a permanent four-man security detail from the Metropolitan Police Diplomatic Protection Unit.
He travels in a bullet-and bomb-proof jeep provided by the United Nations.
Palestinians say Mr Blair has little to show for more than two years as the Quartet envoy.
He is also hated by many Arabs for supporting the 2003 invasion of Iraq as then U.S. president George W. Bush's 'puppet', for declining to speak out against Israel's 2006 war in Lebanon against Hezbollah and for what they perceive as his pro-Israel bias when prime minister.